Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: CB Justin Layne
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Off the reserve/Covid-19 list, and just in time for teams to actually begin real practices. Literally, today, August 12, is the day that teams may begin to conduct on-field practices other than walkthroughs, with helmets and with shells, but not pads. As a young, inexperienced, and raw second-year player, returning now means that he hasn’t missed too much in what is already a stunted offseason.
Pretty much what I just said about as the reasoning for the stock evaluation, but really, any time any player comes off of any reserve list—especially one pertaining to a virus—is going to be characterized as stock up. Ultimately, this means that Justin Layne is going from unavailable to available.
And in the case of the reserve/Covid-19 list, this meant that he couldn’t even be in the building with his teammates, which is not the case for other reserve lists for injury. Again, as a young player, it’s imperative that he be in the building and communicating with his coaches and teammates and learning.
And now he’s back to doing that, in what will be an important development year with Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton hitting free agency in 2021. Next season will be Layne’s third, and as we sit here now, it’s difficult to say what his role will be. It is not impossible that he could be a starting outside cornerback (remember, Steven Nelson is a slot-capable player, and the Steelers emphasized his flexibility when they signed him).
He’s not going to get on the field much at all this year on defense unless something bad happens, and that says more about the talent in front of him than it does about his inexperience, I think, but he still has a lot to learn, and learning with reps in practice is a big part of that.
Today marks the first full, true practice sessions of the NFL calendar year. Layne will be out there for that. That’s important. Full stop.